Gracie Abrams is cool, calm and collected when we jump on our Zoom call. The Los Angeles-based musician has recently celebrated her 23rd birthday, wrapped up touring with Olivia Rodrigo and indulging in time at home while writing her forthcoming album. It’s an era of rest and relaxation, one that sees her reaching for comfy hoodies, rereading her favourite poetry book and putting an end to her doomscrolling.
The daughter of J.J. Abrams, the filmmaker behind a number of Star Wars films, has more than proven herself. The likes of Taylor Swift, Lorde and Billie Eilish have all expressed public praise for Abrams; she’s opened for Phoebe Bridgers and Rodrigo, and the star’s climbing success is mirrored by her following of over 1.2 million Instagram followers.
Her soft take on alternative indie pop has Gen Z audiences eating out of the palm of her hand. Intense yearning is bottled up in her specific lyricism, and her unabashed takes on love and jealousy don’t always paint a pretty picture.
Rodrigo plucks a line from the track ’21’ as her favourite Abrams line — “If it doesn’t go away by the time I turn 30, I made a mistake and I’ll tell you I’m sorry.” It’s a tune that Rodrigo says she and her best friend would drive around and scream the lyrics to. Each of Abrams’ EP tracks and singles is tinged with this youthful honesty and emotional vulnerability. You needn’t hear about her struggles with mental health, her cathartic songwriting process and introspective personality to feel it in her music.
Ahead of her collaboration with Pandora, we hear more about her takes on music, style and her inner world.
On the “masterclass” that was touring with Olivia Rodrigo
“[She’s] just super sweet. Like honestly man, she's such a great person, she just has like the best heart," Abrams tells Refinery29. "Being friends with her outside of our work stuff, I've known that, but to also then see her in her zone in a professional environment where there's so many different people whose time and energy goes into making the show safe and able to happen… she so clearly creates such a beautiful environment to be around. And I think everyone who was a part of [the Sour] tour really felt that; it shone through every day.
So aside from just it being a lovely experience to tour with a friend, I think she’s great example of a young person who carries themselves so beautifully and so that was just kind of like a great masterclass.”
On her “self-care” style
“I'm a minimalist when it comes to my fashion sense right now. I appreciate this [Pandora ME] collection so much just because you can really tone it down and build it up, and it can kind of look different every day.
I really just am in a place in my life right now where I want to dress to feel like the person that I want to feel like… and a lot of that ends up just being huge, comfortable clothes. But I think I've recently started like tapping into the way that fashion can also be a version of self-care and sometimes [it’s] ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ in that department. If I'm not feeling particularly amped, for whatever reason, it helps my mood significantly to put on something that makes me feel more alive.
I mean, right now, I'm into long trousers with a boot. I like boyish pieces, but also doing little subtle things that bring out my feminine side more. So I'm into the ‘90s slip skirt, a bralette with a sheer tank top. But then most days, I'm truly in baggy jeans and a huge hoodie. So it varies and especially being on tour, anytime I'm not onstage I feel like I'm in pyjamas.”
On her “emotionally fluid” songwriting
“My songwriting definitely varies, right now [I’m] writing more openly, I think, than I ever have before, just in terms of not feeling or not putting the unnecessary pressures that I have, for some reason in the past, wanted a song to make me feel a certain way.
I've been writing this entire album that I'm working on currently, in a very emotionally fluid space. And it feels really healthy. [It] has been cathartic in the ways that I couldn't have expected like I've dropped a lot of kind of my controlling habits this past year, just in general through lots of therapy, journaling and getting outside my comfort zone.”
On breaking social media’s “severely damaging effects”
“[Social media is] literally addictive… I feel like often we feel like we're at the mercy of our phones. I just am not interested in being so available right now. As you get older, [you get] smarter and more thoughtful about things. What I am grateful for right now is that social media isn't the first place that I go when I'm having feelings about anything.
It also has super severely damaging effects for me personally [and] to have gained a sense of real separation between real life and social media recently has greatly benefited my overall quality of life. I will always love the communities that I have been lucky enough to build and be a part of over time — I've made some of my best friends online. I've gotten to have real relationships with all the people that have listened to my music… that is something that I will be endlessly grateful for forever.
I feel like my relationship to [social media] is probably in the healthiest spot it's ever been, just in terms of not reading comments, or not spending hours in my DMs or not doomscrolling… I don’t feel sour after spending time sitting on my phone. I just found myself being a far more interesting writer, when instead of sitting on Instagram for three hours, I'm going out on walks in neighbourhoods that I haven’t ever been to, or I'm reading this book that I find deeply compelling, or I'm listening to music from an artist who I hadn't heard since I was a child.”
On feeling “lucky” about the openness of mental health conversations
“When I think about my relationship to social media and having anxiety or whatever, having bouts of depression or whatever it is, I know that I feel very much a part of a community, a generation that struggles with these things.
When I'm at a show and I'm like, ‘raise your hand if you have anxiety’ — to see hands go up in the air, it's like people aren't embarrassed about it, it's like all we want to do is be able to connect with each other. And to do so over subjects that have, in the past, been swept under the rug, I just feel lucky that we're living in a time right now where these conversations are happening more and more.”
On what’s bringing her joy
“There's this collection of poems called Risking Everything — that is my favourite book in the world. It's just the most heartbreaking and striking poetry from different poets and I bring it with me everywhere; every flight I'm on I read it again and again, and I find something new every time. I could not recommend it more. Even if you're not into poetry. I truly do believe that if you spend 10 minutes with this book, it will change your mind about that.
Separately, I've just been listening to a tonne of Amy Winehouse lately, I feel like that's been kind of my go to. There's this new Alex G song called ‘Miracles' that I love a lot. I think I've been hanging out with my little brother as much as I can… it makes me feel solid. I've been writing a lot of these more musical songs on the piano with no words. So that's kind of new, but helps my brain and my heart."
On what she’s proudest of
“Being a sister to my brothers. I hope that they think I'm not a shitty one. That to me, just means more than anything else. I'm proud that I get to be related to them.”